Those madcap masters of mayhem, the Marx Brothers, are at it again in this zany laughfest. When a valuable painting turns up missing at a party, Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo help find it--with outrageous results.
"Not as polished as DUCK SOUP, this is nonetheless my favorite Marx Brothers film. This was their second movie; the first filmed in Hollywood, and records their final stage production. So in many ways, this is a transition film. ANIMAL CRACKERS and their first film, COCONUTS, made in 1929, also share the distinction of being perhaps the two oldest sound films that are still widely watched. The film is not perfect. There are many dead moments scattered throughout the film, though only when one of the Brothers was not onscreen. And because sound recording was still in its infancy, the sound is pretty dreadful. The voices all sound somewhat flat and thin, but Groucho, Harpo, and Chico more than make up for it. And for once, we shouldn't leave out Zeppo. Groucho and Zeppo have a great exchange where Groucho dictates a letter to be sent to his lawyer. Actually, Zeppo was very, very talented in his own right, but with the three older brothers having staked out their own forms of madness, he was left as the straight man. On Broadway, Groucho came down sick, and Zeppo put on Groucho's clothes, put on a grease paint mustache and eyebrows, grabbed a cigar, and no one knew it wasn't Groucho. ANIMAL CRACKERS is actually an outstanding showcase for all the brothers. Chico and Harpo team up for some of their best skits (including an utterly hysterical game of bridge), each has some great solo moments, and Groucho has dozens of his best and most famous lines. In fact, the movie probably contains half of the famous lines that we associate with Groucho, including the song that became his signature, "Hooray for Captain Spaulding." And Margaret Dumont is amazingly unflappable as Groucho's love (?) interest. Although is easily my favorite Marx Brother film, it is usually ranked somewhat below some of their other films. One reason for this lies in the fact that the film was not shown for several decades following its initial release because of a copyright dispute. When the Marx Brothers performed ANIMAL CRACKERS on Broadway, one night Harpo was running late when he reached the theater. Changing quickly, he inadvertently left off his knee length underwear he normally put under his tear-away tux for his first scene. At the point where the butler is supposed to take his cape, and the entire tux pulls away, Harpo was left there standing in only his jock strap. While he rushed offstage to put on the rest of his outfit, Groucho calmly adlibbed, "Come back tomorrow and he'll take the rest off.""
Beware of the dreaded left-handed moth!
Mike Stone | 09/10/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Once you get past the opening song and dance number, this is a fine Marx Brothers' comedy. It has all the usual sequences found in their early Paramount pictures, and for my money they are of the highest quality. Groucho's entrance is superb as he refuses to pay the $1.85 cab fare from Africa, because his servant made the mistake of going through Australia. Groucho and Chico's two extended exchanges are priceless. The first is when they negotiate how much it would cost for Chico's band NOT to play at the party (considerably more if they also don't rehearse!). The second when they decide that the missing painting must be in the house next door, only to realize that there is no house next door (no problem: they'll build one!). Harpo's antics are all great, the standout being when he plays the dealer at the bridge game. I even enjoyed the "young lovers" subplot. Hal Thompson was fine and bland as the young man, and Lillian Roth is suitably mischievous as his romantic interest. My favourite sequence, however, starts with Groucho's Captain Spaulding rehashing the story of his jungle adventures (complete with the famous elephant-in-my-pajamas joke), and segues into Chico's piano number. The joke is that he can't remember the finish, so he keeps playing the beginning over and over. The confusion on Chico's face and the exasperation on Groucho's make for a great comic combination.There were some down moments, though. Groucho's ire towards Zeppo makes their scenes together uncomfortable (thankfully, the wooden Zeppo doesn't have much screen time). Harpo appears particularly violent throughout the film (upon his entrance he grabs a gun and starts shooting at everybody; later, he continually threatens to smack his female opponents during the bridge game). It depletes any favour he's gained through his charming innocence. And Chico sometimes can't help but laugh at his own clever jokes, which is an annoying trait on anyone.These are minor concerns though. Overall it's a grand stew of hilarious non-sequiters, puns, illogicalities, and funny faces. "Hello, I must be going" indeed!"
A disappointment, especially in sound quality
T. Cole (email@example.com) | Illinois | 12/08/1998
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD was a dissapointment, especially in sound and video quality (what else is there?). I know that the film was a very early talkie, but I didn't find the quality of the sound and video any better than the earlier video versions I have seen. I was really look forward to seeing and hearing some of my favorite Marx Brothers bits, but the sound drops in and out inconsistently. I expected more from a higher priced DVD -- and there are no extras. I hope they do better when the eventually release "A Night at the Opera"."
Excuse me, Mrs. Rittenhouse, but have you lost a fish?
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 09/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even more so than THE COCOANUTS, this second Marx Brothers film suffers from extremely stagey cinematography; worse still, the print and sound quality is often quite poor and some of the references (most notably Groucho's take on Eugene O'Neil's "Strange Interlude") are so firmly rooted in place and time that one would need be an adept of arcane trivia to grasp the joke. Even so, ANIMAL CRACKERS remains one of the Marx Brothers' most inspired feats of comic anarchy, setting the brothers loose to wreck havoc on a Long Island society house party, where they waste little time in lampooning social pretensions with incredible precision.Although ingenue Lillian Roth's performance seems stylistically dated, the brothers are extremely well supported by the wonderful Margaret Dumont, and the film abounds in wildly hilarious scenes--most particularly the Bridge party--in which Dumont faces the full brunt of their ribal humor to outrageously funny effect. Other brilliant moments include Groucho's proposals ("Why, that's bigamy!"), Chico's turn at the piano (Chico: "I can't think of the ending." Groucho: "Funny, I can't think of anything else!") and the power failure ("Excuse me, Mrs. Rittenhouse, but have you lost a fish?") All in all, ANIMAL CRACKERS will be a real treat for Marx Brothers fans as well as casual viewers prepared to overlook the film's flaws, and it remains my favorite among their early films."
scotsladdie | 11/16/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In 1929, a new kind of movie comedy burst into view when THE COCOANUTS gave movie audiences their first dose the Marx Brothers' hilarious anarchy; the cinema had introduced the public to Marx insanity much to the delight of the hoi polloi. ANIMAL CRACKERS was an adaptation of a Marx Bros. Broadway show and it made an even better movie than their first screen effort, which was made rather crudely technically (at the Astoria Studios on Long Island) and was obviously very set-bound with a nearly immobile camera. The George S. Kaufman-Morrie Ryskind story, tailored to celluloid by Ryskind and Pierre Collings - and frequently forgotton while the brothers ran riot - concerned the theft of a painting from Margaret Dumont, whose love-hate relationship with Groucho was fast becoming one the greatest film affairs of all-time. Groucho gave voice to HOORAY FOR CAPTAIN SPALDING - which was later his radio signiture song. Harpo and Chico did their musical specialties while Zeppo stooged and Lillian Roth soubretted as the others merely acted under Victor Heerman's direction. The still-primitive microphone technique gave the Walter Wagner production a rather static look, but the Marxian puns, one-liners, non-sequiturs and miming scored repeatedly."